Tuesday, May 5, 2015

To Tip or Not to Tip?

I came across an article the other day about how much to tip in various countries around the world. I've touched on the lack of tipping culture in Australia on the blog before, but I thought I'd elaborate a little bit on tipping and dining in general, as it can be quite different from home. Also, I'm definitely going to save the above article for travel purposes. Whenever I'm in a new country I find myself fretting over whether or not to leave a tip and this is a pretty comprehensive guide.

The Tip
The article says 10% at fine dining restaurants is acceptable in Australia, but in my experience it's definitely not compulsory. I've eaten at a variety of causal and more upscale restaurants and have never left a tip nor has anyone else in my group. I suppose I would consider tipping if I truly experienced amazing service, but that hasn't happened yet. 

At first I felt a little bit uneasy about not tipping. In the U.S. it would be super insulting to not leave a tip, as everyone knows that waiters and waitresses rely on tips to make up the majority of their income. Even if the service isn't particularly good, I will still tip around 15% in the States. Once I learned that the minimum wage in Australia is something like $16/hour and servers often make quite a bit more than that, I didn't feel so bad, as their salary is meant to be sufficient on its own.

Because a server's income isn't determined by tips, you can imagine the incentive to provide above and beyond service just isn't there. You'll often have to order and pay at the cash register and grab your own water at a restaurant. Sometimes a server will greet you and drop off a water jug for the table. Because waiters/waitresses don't usually have a set group of tables they are assigned to serve, it can be hard to flag someone down to take your order, which is annoying. Also, I still haven't figured out a formula for knowing where/how to order and pay. It seems pretty 50/50 in terms of paying at the table vs. paying at the register. We mainly just spend a lot of time looking around for someone to tell us what to do.

At a few of the more popular restaurants I've been to, they'll give you a time limit (usually two hours) on your table. When the end of your reservation approaches, someone will most definitely let you know your time is up. This is totally weird to me, but I guess it helps shuffle more people through!

Taking Leftover Food Home
I think I've mentioned this before, but don't expect to take leftovers home. If you ask, you'll generally be met with a confused look. Occasionally you can snag a take-away box, but it's just not something I've seen many people attempt to do. Portion sizes tend to be smaller, so this is less of an issue in general. 

I think I've mentioned this one before too, but some restaurants allow you to bring your own alcohol and just charge a corkage fee of a few dollars per person. We don't take advantage of this as much as we should. Cocktails are often around $15-$20 in a restaurant, so bringing some wine can really save a few bucks. 

Final Cost
When we first got here and saw the prices of food at even mediocre restaurants we were horrified. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn't be eating out much. While we still spend more on dining out than I would like to admit, the price in the end isn't overwhelmingly more than at a comparable restaurant in the U.S. While the food itself is more expensive here, not having to factor in the tip and tax (which is always included in the meal price) on top makes a difference. 


  1. I agree it was so weird at first, but I really have started to appreciate eating out in Australia.

    1. It's not too bad if you can figure out where to order :)

  2. Great post and great article! I agree with you, if the service is above and beyond I would definitely consider tipping, but I’m yet to experience that here in Melbourne. The servers are definitely all over the place and I hate having to flag them down. Most of the time I just feel awkward because I don’t know who to order from or who my server is. I remember when I first got here I asked for something “to-go” and they looked at me like I was crazy. I quickly learned that they call it take-away haha! Oh and I was shocked by the prices too… we definitely don’t go out to eat as much as we used to.

    1. Flagging someone down can be impossible, and the service is really pretty terrible. But I would say the food quality is better on average so that's a plus!



Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!



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